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March 10, 2012
• 10:00 AM
• Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Referee: A. Taylor
• Attendance: 41661
N. Bendtner 56'
Shots on Target
Well folks, that brings an end to today's LIVE commentary on the Sunderland vs Liverpool game. Sunderland worked hard, but had little in the way of end product, but thankfully for them, they were facing a seriously out of sorts Liverpool side, who surely saw their slim Champions League qualification hopes die a slow and painful death today. I've been James McManus, you've been yourselves, and with that startling bombshell out of the way, I shall take my leave. Thank you for joining us and stick around on site for some post-match reaction on all of today's big games.
At the end of the day, trophies are what a club and a manager are measured by, but I wonder how long it will be before Kenny Dalglish begins to irk some sections of the Liverpool support a tad more. The Carling Cup may be in the bag, but they don't look anything like the finished product at the moment and that triumph over Cardiff can only act as a distraction for so long. The subs he made today were obvious at half-time, yet it took him until the 70th minute to make them. Sunderland have conceded the highest proportion of headed goals in the entire Premier League so far this season, so what does Dalglish do? He starts the team's only aerial threat, £35m striker Andy Carroll on the bench. Very odd indeed.
The final-whsistle is blown and Sunderland have a huge victory as they move just two points behind Liverpool in 7th. Martin O'Neill's side were full of work and little in the way of quality, but all it took was one moment of geuinely lively movement from Fraizer Campbell, as his snapshot from the edge of the box bounced off Pepe Reina and out to leave Nicklas Bendtner, who went was stretchered off injured, with a simply tap-in. Liverpool, though, were absolutely terrible. Seemingly devoid of a plan, a formation and any real idea of how to set about the task of beating Sunderland today, they gave a performance as flat as a pancake. On this evidence, the only way that they're likely to see Champions League football any time soon, is in their dreams.
All hands on deck at the back for Sunderland as Liverpool fling one final ball into the box with Gerrard, Kuyt and Carroll all in close attention, but Wayne Bridge gets a brave head on it and O'Shea hacks it clear.
Luis Suarez has been unusally quite today too, he's not looked quite the same player since returning from his eight-game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra. He looks a yard short of pace and way off his best.
Enrique has Bardsley backtracking and as the full-back lays the ball off to Downing, the winger takes it on his right foot and blazes it over the bar, He never looked like scoring there.
There's four minutes of injury time left and Sunderland look the more up for it as they attempt to see the game out.
It may sound like a cliche, but on days like this, when they've created so little and been so flat, you really do have to wonder where Liverpool have spent all that money. Frittered it away on average players, the result of that is that you get the odd brilliant display, followed by a whole ton of average and poor ones.
A fantastic run by Jose Enrique down the left sees him beat Bardsley to the byline for pace, his cut back on the edge of the area finds Downing, who plays a neat pass to his right for Gerrard, but the skipper sees his flying shot closed down brilliantly by Jack Colback and Sunderland get the ball clear.
Liverpool are struggling to get hold of the ball at the moment and Sunderland are doing a good job of breaking up the play.
Nicklas Bendtner looks as if he's seriously hurt as he goes down clutching his ankle after a clumsy challenge from Martin Skrtel in the top right hand side of the pitch near the corner flag. Connor Wickham, a Liverpool transfer target in the summer, comes on in place of the stretchered off Dane on-loan from Arsenal.
Yellow Card Martin Skrtel
If Liverpool lose today it will be their third straight league defeat on the trot. Their form since the turn of the year reads; two wins, four draws and five defeats. For a side with their ambitions, that's woefully short of what's required, that's lower mid-table form
Stewart Downing comes on in place of Jordan Henderson, with the former Sunderland player receiving a subdued round of applause. He's been very quiet on his return to the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland finally get hold of the ball and as they work the ball around quickly, Liverpool look a combination of frustrated and slow to the punch. This doesn't look good for Dalglish's side, they look as if they've run out of not only ideas, but energy too.
Liverpool have had 70% possession in the last five minutes, but they've still failed to make themselves any real clear cut chances. They lack any sort of invention and guile about their play.
Sunderland are fimrly camped in their own 18-yard box now and Liverpool are enjoying all the possession. Suarez tries a hopeful looking overhead kick from the edge of the area instead of laying the ball off to Carroll, who looked well set. Wasteful.
Carroll's introduction will provide a welcome target for the Liverpool back four now, for they've been playing those hopeful long balls all afternoon anyway. Gerrard works Mignolet from the edge of the area after a useful knock down by Carroll, but while it's on target, it's easily held.
Kenny Dalglish finally makes the changes that needed to be made at half-time and brings on Gerrard and Carroll, with Adam and Bellamy trotting off. He may be the 'King', but Dalglish always seems far too slow to react to events on the pitch with his substitutions.
Suarez knocks the ball out wide to Henderson, who then lays the ball off to Adam. The former Blackpool man has a pop from wide right on the edge of the area and it flahes harmlessly wide. Suarez had an almighty pop at Adam for having a crack on goal there, and it did look like a waste of possession in a dangerous area. Adam has looked a yard off the pace of the game all day today, perhaps feeling the effects of being a regular all season even by March time.
Liverpool are moving the ball about nicely in Sunderland's half, but there's simply no penetration.
Suarez's tricky feet win a free-kick in a promising position on the right hand flank. Charlie Adam's ball in fails to beat the first man, though. Adam's delivery is wasetful as often as it is excellent. He then pushes over Fraizer Campbell trying to win the ball back moments later, it simply hasn't been the Scottish midfielder's day so far and he's been notably poor.
To put it quite simply, this has been an awfully flat performance from Liverpool so far and they need to make a change. They look so short of quality going forward it's scary. They are far from being good enough to challenge the top four on today's evidence.
Liverpool's best moment of the half sees Luis Suarez drive at the Sunderland back four, lay the ball off to Henderson on the edge of the box, and the midfielder plays a first-time one-two over O'Shea, but Suarez drags his volley wide.
Assist Fraizer Campbell
Goal Nicklas Bendtner
GOAL!!!! Fraizer Campbell's excellent screwed drive from the edge of the area hits the post, bounces off Pepe Reina's back and back out and the onrushing Bendtner lashes home the rebound. Martin Skrtel really should have done better in closing down the original Campebll effort there, as he simply showed him onto his stronger side. Sunderland are ahead, it's barely deserved, but the goal could be the best thing that could happen right now to this match.
James McClean drifts inside off the left-hand flank and beats Kelly for pace, but with more than one option available for the pass, he has an ambitious pop on the run and it flies miles wide. The boy isn't lacking confidence, that's for sure.
Sunderland enjoy a good spell of possession and it ends with Jack Colback having a more than worthy pop from 30 yards out. It flies high, wide and not so handsome past Reina's left hand post, but it was a decent hit from distance.
James McClean beats Martin Kelly down the left again and he sends in another dangerous cross that Skrtel takes an almighty swing at and deflects back to Reina. Sunderland are getting closer.
The second half is under way and already Sunderland have thrown three long balls forward. The home crowd is beginning to show signs of irritation. If there's one thing you can say about Martin O'Neill, it's that his sides are often very difficult to break down, but by God, please play something other than long ball, Martin, it's sinfully boring.
On the other hand, Sunderland have looked up for this match, but they just lack an element of composure whenever they win the ball back. They've been full of effort, and Bendtner looks to have got the better of a shaky Coates on a number of occassions, while McClean has beaten Martin Kelly time and time again down the left, but they've failed to really carve open the away side's back four just yet. A big half awaits for both teams.
It's been a very disappointing display from Liverpool so far, and you can see why they've scored just 30 league goals all season. If Andy Carroll, who has shown a bit of form recently, was bought for any reason, you would think it was for games like today's one, but I think that it's become fairly clear that Dalglish doesn't have any real faith in the former Newcastle striker. In midfield, Henderson has been as anonymous as ever, Charlie Adam has given the same performance that he's given in every Liverpool game so far this season; he's ran around a bit, pushes people over, and threatened with set-pieces, while Luis Suarez has cut an isolated figure up front. But apart from that, Liverpool have been alright.
The half-time whistle is blown and it brings an end to a truly dull first-half of action. As expected, Sunderland have been full of energy, but they've been desperately short of quality in the final third, and I think that it's fair to say that they miss the lively presence of Sessegnon up top. Liverpool have dominated much of the possession but have rarely, if ever, actually threatened to do anything with it. The away side's play has lacked ambition, purpose and drive, and the back four has been guilty of simply hoofing the ball up top in search of answers far too often. If Dalglish doesn't manage to make a positive impact on their performance in the second half, then Liverpool's hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League look like ending with a whimper.
We've heard of reputation's preceding people and Luis Suarez's, shall we call it, penchant for a tumble, almost hands Liverpool a goalscoring chance. Dirk Kuyt's through ball sees Suarez ghost past O'Shea, with the defender simply terrified of making a challenge, but Suarez's touch is heavy and it goes behind for a goal kick.
Sir Alex Ferguson once stated that Charlie Adam's delivery alone was worth £10m, and it nearly proves the difference here. A whipepd free-kick from the right hand side, 30 yards from goal is caught in the wind and Mignolet tips the ball over for a corner after getting caught underneath it. The resulting corner sees Adam deliver another decent corner and Kuyt manages to get a head on it, but it's hacked away by McClean on the line.
Yellow Card James McClean
You can see what Dalglish has wanted from his side today, as he's lined them up in a fluid 4-5-1 formation, but the message appears to have been lost in translation to the Liverpool back four, as time and time again they've bypassed the midfield with hopeful long balls forward.
Sunderland have conceded the highest proportion of headed goals in the entire top flight this season, so Andy Carroll could have a part to play as the game wears on. It's been a drab affair so far.
Plenty of urgnecy about the home side's play, but at best, they've been operating on a hit-and-hope basis as another decent ball into the box by McClean is cleared.
Another intricate spell of play by Liverpool sees Jose Enrique narrowly fail to chase down a Bellamy through ball on the left-hand touchline.
The home crowd appear a little bit more subdued now as Liverpool have dominated possession the last ten minutes, but they have nothing to show for it. The story of Liverpool's season so far.
Some nice interplay between Bellamy, Kuyt and Suarez sees the ball drop to Adam on the edge of the area on his favoured left foot, but under no pressure he blazes it miles over. That, people, is the entire thinking behind Adam's constant inclusion in this Liverpool side, because he offers very little else. That was quite frankly rubbish.
Suarez goes down under pressure from O'Shea, but he manages to poke the ball out wide on the right to Henderson while on the floor, and the former Sunderland player's cross into the box is a decent one, but Dirk Kuyt can't get enough on it after beating Turner in the air at the near post and Mignolet collects.
Liverpool appear to lack any sort of presence in midfield at the moment, and Sunderland are swarming all over Adam and Spearing whenever they have the ball. It's been a very scrappy affair so far.
Both sides are huffing and puffing about at the minute but there's very little in the way of clear cut chances. Sunderland work the ball well down the right and Larsson's deep cross at the back post is poked away by Martin Kelly and it nutmegs Campbell on the way out of the box. Where was James McClean there? That would have been a cracking chance.
Sunderland are pressing very high up the pitch at the moment and it's forcing the Liverpool back four into some rash passes. Fantastic work-rate from the home side, there.
A sloppy pass by McClean catches the Sunderland defence on the back foot. Suarez's mazy run, although he never has fully control of the ball, wins the away side a corner. Charlie Adam's ball into the box has plenty of pace about it, but it drops behind for a goal-kick.
Liverpool do well in midfield to keep the ball under some intense pressure from Sunderland, working the ball around in what can only be described as triangles. There's plenty of talent in Dalglish's midfield, but they just look so static, with none of them every daring to break beyond their opposing number.
James McClean delivers an excellent zipping cross into the box and Bendtner just fails to make contact, as Jose Enrique hacks clear rather unconvincingly. Martin Kelly looks like he may have his hands full with the young Irishman today.
Both sides appear to have settled into the game now, but there's been little quality of note. Liverpool appear to have developed a tactic of launching long diagonal balls forward into Luis Suarez. Baffling.
Turner launches a routine long ball forward to Bendtner and Coates gets this horribly wrong, getting caught right underneath it on the stretch, the Dane's low cross is then hacked clear by Henderson. Sunderland are on top at the moment.
Larsson fires in another inswigning corner and Sunderland are camped extremely deep in Liverpool's box. Reina finally gets a grapple on the ball but that could be a sign of things to come later on in the game.
Larsson whips in a pacy free-kick and John O'Shea gets a backwards flick onto the ball a full 14 yards out from goal and it sails harmlessly over the bar.
Charlie Adam does what he does best, as he's slow to a quick Sunderland free-kick and he just pushes McClean over.
Liverpool enjoying plenty of possession in the Sunderland half, moving the ball from side to side, but it lacks any sort of urgency or tempo behind it.
A fantastic driving run by Jose Enrique finds Bellamy put in behind Bardsley down the left hand side, but his cross is way over it. Liverpool already lacking a focal point to their attack, with Andy Carroll sat on the bench twiddling his thumbs.
Great surging run by Jay Spearing in between Colback and Gardner, he sprays the ball out wide to Jose Enrique, but his cross is easily dealt with by O'Shea and Sunderland clear.
Worth noting that Sunderland have started with Fraizer Campbell up top alongside Nicklas Bendtner for the first time ever today, rather than pushing Campbell down the left flank. It's a straightforward 4-4-2 and O'Neill obviously fancies his chances of getting at a Liverpool side with just 10 points to show from their last 10 games.
Frantic start already and it looks as if it could be an open end-to-end game.
And we're off, as former Sunderland man Jordan Henderson kicks-off with Luis Suarez for Liverpool.
Anthony Taylor from Cheshire is our referee today and as he leads the players out of the tunnel, we're only minutes away from kick-off. Anyone else got PMT? No? Just me then.
Uruguayan centre-half Sebastian Coates starts today for Liverpool in place of Jamie Carragher who was responsible for losing Robin van Persie for both of Arsenal's two goals in Liverpool's 2-1 defeat at Anfield last weekend. That's some big news, there, and it looks like a demotion at first glance of Carragher from third to fourth choice at the club now. The other change to their starting line-up from their Arsenal defeat is that Craig Bellamy starts, with Stewart Downing dropping to the bench. Steven Gerrard passed a late fitness test on a hamstring injury, but is only deemed fit enough to start on the bench.
Liverpool line-up today as follows: Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Coates, Jose Enrique, Kuyt, Henderson, Adam, Spearing, Bellamy, Suarez. Subs: Doni, Gerrard, Carroll, Maxi, Downing, Carragher, Flanagan.
Sunderland make just two changes, both enforced by suspension, from the side that battled to a 1-1 draw against Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear Derby last week. Stephane Sessegnon and Lee Cattermole both serve the first match of their respective suspensions and, as expected, Jack Colback and Fraizer Campbell start in their place. Also, there is a notable return to the Sunderland squad of £9m Scotland international Craig Gordon, who returns after just over a year out with a troubling knee injury.
Time to bring you some team news: Sunderland's line-up today is as follows: Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Bridge, Larsson, Colback, Gardner, McClean, Bendtner, Campbell. Subs: Gordon, Wickham, Kilgallon, Vaughan, Meyler, Kyrgiakos, Elmohamady.
A few facts to throw your way then: Sunderland have recorded just one win in their last 11 atempts against Liverpool, which came courtesy of the now infamous beach-ball goal by Darren Bent in the Mackems 1-0 over Rafa Benitez's Liverpool back in October 2009. That controversial Bent goal was the only time that Sunderland have managed to find the back of the net in Liverpool's last five visits to the Stadium of Light. And last but not least, Liverpool have the worst shots to goals conversion rate out of any side in the entire top flight, turning just 8.6% of their chances into goals. Whether that means we're in for a goal-fest or a bore draw I'm not quite sure, but it promises to be an engaging encounter all the same.
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to today's LIVE commentary edition of the match between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light, my name is James McManus and I'll be talking you through the action. To put it quite simply, it's an absolutely huge game for Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool side today if they are to retain any hope of qualifying for the Champions League next season, and they are in dire need of all three points to keep up with those ahead of them. For Sunderland, mid-table obscurity beckons this campaign, which is a testament to the job that Martin O'Neill has done in arresting their alarming slide down the table under Steve Bruce.
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